The Chattanooga Fire Department, along with Hamilton County Coalition’s Nu-Start program has partnered to launch the “Safe Stations” initiative in Chattanooga. Safe Stations will make all fire stations within Chattanooga 24-hour havens, where anyone struggling with an opioid addiction can be connected to treatment and recovery options.
As many hospital emergency rooms can become overwhelmed with patients, this program assists all by weeding out individuals seeking assistance that may not need immediate medical attention but need immediate help. At any time during the day or night when the victim of addiction decides or gathers up the courage to ask for help, he or she can go to any Safe Station and speak to the firefighters on duty. The firefighters will arrange for or provide a medical assessment — not to exceed their scope of training. If there is cause for concern that there is something else medically or psychiatrically wrong with the patient, transportation to an appropriate level medical facility will be provided by Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services. If there is not a medical or psychiatric concern, the individual will either be picked up by a Nu-Start team member or transported to a respite facility until proper care arrives.
"The Safe Stations program is a natural fit for the department and our community because of our response to overdose emergencies and our locations throughout the city,” Seth Miller, executive deputy chief of the Chattanooga Fire Department said. “Similar to our efforts to prevent destructive fires through code enforcement or public education, we'll be working with Hamilton County Coalition to try to prevent further opioid-related overdoses. Unfortunately, overdose responses are far too common. If we can help prevent one overdose through this proactive intervention, then it will be worth the effort. Our hope is that this connection to the Nu-Start program can help prevent many overdose situations.
“Prior to the Safe Stations program, the CFD would have simply responded to an overdose, provided patient care, and would not have connected individuals with care beyond immediate medical stabilization. With the Safe Stations program, we now have the opportunity to connect community members with assistance through the Nu-Start team that goes beyond our scope and ability toward a long-term rehabilitation opportunity. This point of connection toward long-term solution will potentially help the CFD run less of these types of responses. It's a win-win for citizens, our community, and the department.”
Each individual seeking assistance will be required to drop any needles and/or paraphernalia into a collection bin located at each Safe Station prior to seeking treatment.
If any weapons are in the possession of an individual seeking assistance, Chattanooga Police Department will need to be involved.
If illegal substances are in the possession of an Individuals seeking assistance, Chattanooga Police Department will be notified for disposal purposes only.
“This initiative is designed to effectively combine all of the resources and connections the Chattanooga Fire Department and Hamilton County Coalition have to better help anyone seeking treatment for their opioid addiction,” Hamilton County Coalition Executive Director Camilla Bibbs-Lee said. “The process will begin once an individual comes to a Safe Station wanting help. From there, a warm handoff will be made to Nu-Start to begin the process of getting the individual to treatment, while the fire station continues servicing emergencies throughout the community.”
The Safe Stations initiative will officially launch on Aug. 31, which is also known as International Overdose Awareness Day. Hamilton County Coalition, along with their partners, will host numerous events throughout Chattanooga to launch the initiative and spread awareness of the signs and risks of abusing prescription drugs or alcohol. Events will be held at the following locations and times:
Station 1 on 218 East Main St. at 9:30 a.m.
Bethlehem Center on 200 West 38th St. (Partnering with Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-South) from 10 a.m.-noon
Focus Treatment Center on 7429 Shallowford Road from 10 a.m.-noon